In class we experience New Caledonia’s “pilou” dance. Each pilou tells a particular Kanak story, whether of a birth, marriage, great battle or even the arrival of missionaries. While the term “pilou-pilou” encompassed many kinds of pre-colonial Kanak ceremonies, the pilou dance itself is a “round-dance” that traditionally involves many people moving together around a central pole, sometimes for hours at a time. The dancers’ feet make a “sh-sh-sh-sh” sound as the dancers move from foot to foot, hopping on one foot while stamping the other. Sometimes dancers hold straw which sways as the body shifts from side do side. The French colonial authorities banned pilou in the mid-20th century because they feared the trances Kanaks entered while dancing, but in class we love trances! Let’s try the pilou.
Watch pilou dancers shake it shake it shake it! (non-circularly) | Watch Tim Sameke’s “Pilou,” taking the pilou dancers into the modern age | Watch We Ce Ca, New Caledonia’s most popular dance troupe, doing a dance that, while it may not be pilou, is still pretty great
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